Does Smoking Affect Your Singing Voice? – Scientific Revelations

Are you a smoker… and a singer? Has it been an ongoing nagging question if smoking does affect your singing voice?

Or are you just getting started with singing and still light up a cigarette once in a while?

Sure, smoking on stage looks cool and can make you feel like a rock star. But is it really a good idea?

There’s a lot talking about vocal health and how to keep in shape to ensure you’ll have a long-lasting singing career.

Does smoking affect your singing voice? If yes, to which extent? Or is it all smoke and mirrors?

In the next few paragraphs, I will address these questions and shed a light on this sensitive discussion.

https://www.pinterest.at/pin/864057878487720670#

Are Singers Prone To Smoking?

Currently, there are one billion smokers worldwide.

While you might think that the lifestyle of artists…like heavy partying… would show a higher rate of smokers, recent statistical outcomes paint a different picture.

According to multiple surveys, singers are in the mid-range of all professions, with ranging smoker rates between 14 to 17%.

People, who work in construction and in food services (!), have the highest smoking rates with around 30% (Fig.1)industries-versus-smoking-prevalence

Graphic by vapourlites.com

Ongoing trends since 1974 the proportion of smokers, who have quit, overtakes the proportion of current smokers.

When you look at the vast amount of anti-smoking campaigns and restrictions that were put in place over the last years…it’s no wonder at all.

Smoke Your Way to A Lower Voice

I found some interesting studies conducted with smokers and non-smokers.

They measured different vocal parameters, e.g. fundamental frequency to analyze the impact of smoking on the voice.

Smoking lowers the voice

Results of a Brazilian study showed, that in a relatively short time period (< 10 years), fundamental frequency parameters were significantly decreased in all smoking groups.

The effect was especially seen in female smokers, which had a frequency decrease of 14Hz on average, compared to the non-smoker group.

So, what that really means is…

If you smoke for a couple of years, your voice gets deeper and you lose some of your brilliant high notes. The vocal change is considered to be a result of vocal edemas due to tobacco exposure.

But you are not alone…

Did You Know That These Artists Smoke?

When you take a look at some popular singers, you may be surprised, who else is a smoker or used to smoke.

Eddie Vedder
Lady Gaga
Tom Waits
David Bowie
Freddie Mercury
Ville Valo
Nat King Cole
Enrico Caruso (!)
Adele
Axl Rose
Jim Morrison
Amy Winehouse
Ronnie James Dio
David Coverdale
Robert Plant
The Beatles
The Rat Pack

It’s very rare that you hear the story of a singer who gave up smoking due to vocal problems.

And while I don’t want to sugarcoat smoking… let me ask you some interesting questions here…

– How could one of the best tenors of all time, Enrico Caruso, be a heavy smoker and still deliver the best high C performances?

– How could someone like Dean Martin, who eventually died of lung cancer, keep his unique smooth voice throughout his entire career?

Probably they knew…

How To Smoke And Still Sing Like An Angel

If, despite the risk of seriously harming your health, you can’t or don’t want to quit smoking, you should take some actions to keep your voice in good shape.

The best prevention for a damaged voice is singing with a solid and healthy technique.

If you learn how to use the airflow properly and sing efficiently with only minor engagement, you will enter a world of maximum outcome with only little effort.

Singer on stage non-smoker

Moreover, alcohol has a much deeper immediate impact on the vocal cords than cigarettes will ever do.

Remember the last morning after a boozy night.  When you woke up to answer the phone…and you sounded like Barry White?

Well, that’s the result of swollen vocal cords. And if you want to double that effect, smoking and drinking will do it for you.

I Was a Smoker For 15 Years 

Hell yes, no need to hold anything back here.

I smoked for fifteen years. My daily dose of nicotine was roughly one pack.

You see, I’m happy, I finally quit. And it actually was much easier than I thought it would be in the first place.

Throughout my “smoking career”, I started taking voice lessons. Over the course of 10 years, smoking and singing overlapped. There was one single year, where I stopped smoking for the first time.

Well, I can only speak for myself. But interestingly I didn’t notice that big of a difference when I was still smoking and the time when I quit.

Neither did I have a clearer voice, nor did I experience more ease/more struggle within my given vocal range.

That lead me to my personal conclusion, that the effects smoking has on your vocal skills might probably not be as dramatic as claimed.

On the other hand…

I’ve never been a heavy-touring singer, who had to push himself to his limits… night after night. So, that might have had an additional impact on my roasted voice.

Conclusion

Without any doubt… smoking is an unhealthy habit…and can seriously harm your health.

There are ZERO good reasons why to smoke at all.
If you still do it… you should really quit! Like yesterday.

There’s actually a program that can help you with that. I recommend you check it out.

You know, where’s a will…there’s a way. 

YES! I WANT TO QUIT SMOKING TODAY

But if you take a closer look at the effects smoking can have on your singing voice, there is no one truth.

On the one hand… science proofed smoking over several years can cause vocal edemas, which then results in a lower voice.

On the other hand, there are multiple examples of famous singers, who heavily smoked and yet kept their voices on a high level throughout their entire careers.

However, there are some really good strategies to keep your singing voice in shape…even if you don’t want to wave goodbye to your daily dose of tobacco.

Second to none…
Singing with the proper technique will keep your voice healthy for many years.

QUIT SMOKING TODAY And Keep Your Voice FOREVER

References

1. Cigarette Smoking Trends Among U.S. Working Adult by Industry and Occupation: Findings From the 2004–2012 National Health Interview Survey; Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 May; 17(5): 599–606.
2. https://www.vapour.com/latest/industries-with-the-highest-and-lowest-smoking-rates/
3. Office for national statistics: Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2017
4. Early effects of smoking on the voice:A multidimensional study; Med Sci Monit,2004;10(12):CR649-656

Did you like what you just read? Are you a singing smoker or have you quit, already?

Tell me what you think about this topic and/or your experiences. I’m curious!

Rock on
Felix

Felix

8 comments to “Does Smoking Affect Your Singing Voice? – Scientific Revelations”

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  1. Shane Black - November 3, 2018 Reply

    Hi Felix, 

    Thanks so much for sharing this article and taking the time to examine the effect that smoking has on you singing voice. 

    I’ve always known that smoking was a very unhealthy habit that could lead to a number of medical conditions but I had no idea that it could actually affect a persons singing voice. Very interest indeed and very relevant for performers!

    Also, I should congratulate you on giving up smoking yourself. That in itself is an achievement you should be proud of. 

    Cheers, 

    Shane

    • Felix - November 5, 2018 Reply

      Thank you Shane, as I said, it was easier than I thought. Truth is, I never tried desperately to quit. When the time was right, I suddenly didn’t perceive me as a smoker. I literally woke up and the instantly said to myself:”I’m a non-smoker”. Plus I monitored my non-smoking days/weeks/months with a “Quit smoking”-app and that massively supported my actions.

  2. Babsie Wagner - November 3, 2018 Reply

    I would definitely believe that smoking would hurt the voice, I mean look what it does to the “talking” voice.  You can always tell an older smoker from a non-smoker just by listening to them talk.  That raspy voice is a sure indicator that they smoke or have smoked, right?  I was actually amazed to see that alcohol has a greater impact on the voice than cigarettes?  Wow – that darned alcohol is always a culprit!  LOL!!

    I was just as surprised to see the list of smoker-singers.  I did not know half of those people ever smoked.  Wow.

    • Felix - November 5, 2018 Reply

      Hi Babsi, thanks for commenting. Just two things: Those raspy voices, you’re talking about don’t always show up in smokers. My theory is, that it has a lot to do, with how you use your voice. Most professional singers, know how to sing economically, which makes a huge different. That’s why just a fraction of them develops an unhealthy voice. Some singers like Rod Stewart have a husky voice, although they never smoked a cigarette.

  3. Andre - November 3, 2018 Reply

    Hi Felix

    Wonderful article and one worth sharing. Many years ago (many that is) I used to be in a band although I wasn’t the front line singer but one of the singers nevertheless. 

    I used to be able to hit some high notes but over the years of smoking I did notice that I can no longer hit those notes and it did lower the voice as well. So what you state is true. 

    Although I gave up the music industry 20 years ago I still smoked and it also affect not only the high registrar but also my lungs which means I couldn’t breath as deeply or effectively as once needs which singing. Back in 2008 I had a major heart attack which was mostly with the constriction of the arteries due to the smoking as I was eating fairly health so food wasn’t the issue smoking was. 

    Glad to say since the heart attack I gave up pretty much cold turkey I did try one after I got out of hospital out of curiosity sake but felt sick so with the 3/4 of what was left I ripped them up and threw them in the bin. 10 years later smoke free. 

    But some damage was done and to this day still can’t hit those hit notes as clearly as before. 

    The breathing has improved and can now take super deep breaths and also hold them in without that need to cough.

    I did notice at times I could get close to some higher notes but still not as the way I would like. But now I am 60 so I don’t have that urge to be in a band did all that good (and bad Stuff) then but still a wonderful experience to keep

    So this post rings true to me with the singing part as well as the health part so thank you for that.

    Wishing you well

    Andre

    • Felix - November 5, 2018 Reply

      Hi Andre, thanks for sharing your (very interesting) story. Great, you quit and never went back! Seems, we have some things in common. All the best and never give up the singing part 😉

  4. Z - August 4, 2019 Reply

    Hey Felix,

    First of all thanks for the great article. I’m a smoker myself and hopefully a future singer. The thing is I like heavy metal, and even with the right screaming technique I find that both in range and resistance there is a big difference. I used to be able to do 20 seconds screams before I started smoking and now I can barely reach 15 seconds. I also find a big difficulty switching from screaming to singing and I keep spitting muccus. I’m looking online and will eventually talk to health professionals about this.

    Although you didn’t really cater to my type of singing, your article was insightful. I believe the rare cases of screamers/singers who managed to smoke their asses off and keep up with the grind like you mentioned are special cases that defy the rule. Each individual has their pair of vocal chords, so I’m afraid there isn’t really a rule for every human being.

    Thanks,
    Z

    • admin - January 13, 2020 Reply

      Hey Z,

      Thanks for your comment and please excuse the delay of my response.
      Oh yes, that heavy metal stuff is really heavy and demands solid technique and healthy vocals.

      You are right, there is no rule for every one. If you have that kind of outcome (declining stamina and spitting mucus) it’s quite obvious you are not doing you any good smoking. How many cigarettes, by the way? Singing, on the other hand cleanses the bronchia, so that’s where the mucus is coming from.

      If you are really serious about singing you probably should make a decision where you want to go from here.

      All the best and keep rockin’
      Felix

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